Batavia facility nears completion

Aerial view week 27
(click for larger image)

Aerial view week 2

Interior week 2

Interior week 24

Recognizing opportunity and seizing it are two completely different things. As the new 940,000 sq. ft. Batavia, OH facility moves toward completion, it's becoming more apparent that Huhtamaki North America is moving aggressively to seize the opportunity.


"The US Foodservice packaging market is a $17 billion market which we are well suited to serve given our global position and technology offering says  Rich Mills, Director of Operations. "What we need is the ability to produce efficiently, handle high material flow and be near customer distribution points. This facility will accomplish that for Huhtamaki."


The facility will also provide ample warehousing and distribution capabilities to fully take advantage of the Ohio location. Huhtamaki plans to devote over 550,000 sq. ft. to production and use the other 350,000 sq. ft. as a centralized distribution center.


The "idea" of Batavia was driven by a growth strategy developed by the North America Leadership Team in 2008. The first part of that strategy was the acquisition of Folding Carton capability which put the North American segment squarely in the Foodservice market with critical mass in an important product. The second step in that strategy was to enter paper drink cups. Folding carton and paper drink cups leverage Huhtamaki's expertise in paperboard converting and target a growing segment in a huge market where we are already well positioned.


North America's existing infrastructure was set up well for consumer packaging and not necessarily for high-volume/speed foodservice production. The existing North American facilities also operated in locations that were not competitive to supply foodservice customer locations. We needed to think a new about how we could compete successfully in a highly competitive market with strong competitors.


Foodservice products require space to manage the material flow and for automation. With space and the right location in mind, leadership set out to build a state-of-the-art facility and potentially leap frog existing competitors in long-term sustainable cost structure.

Of course clearing the "cost" of building new infrastructure was the next hurdle.


When the United States economy suffered through a recession in 2008, the chance to acquire existing infrastructure inexpensively emerged and leadership targeted abandoned distribution centers and auto factories. The Batavia plant, a former transmission factory owned by the Ford Motor Company, became the top target for its location and preferable layout.


For those unfamiliar with American geography, 50 percent of the United States population resides within 500 miles of central Ohio, making it a perfect location for manufacturing and distribution industries.

"We pulled the trigger after being able to establish a folding carton business with critical mass, add pressed  plates to our portfolio with the expansion of Albertville, AL and the acquisition of Winterfield (Winterfield LLC in Marion, IN)," Clay Dunn, executive vice president, Huhtamaki North America, said.  "Long-term we are uniquely positioned with global reach. The Batavia site gives us long-term competitiveness in North America and our scale in paperboard converting establishes us as a leader."


Perhaps the most impressive aspect of this important project so far has been the teamwork from across the company.


"We've been able to pull assets and resources together from across Huhtamaki North America and Europe," Mills said. "IT, Engineering, Finance, Operations, Sales, Supply chain you name it and we've had a contribution. What we have tried to accomplish from the first day was to put all of the company's best practices to work in this new facility. Everyone has been very supportive across the business and everywhere we have reached out. "


Those best practices extend beyond production into other critical areas such as safety and continuous improvement where the Batavia staff has been able to create their culture literally from the ground up. Safety has been key driver throughout the reconstruction of the facility and employees have already participated in training as well as continuous improvement events.


"This is a once-in-a-generation opportunity for our organization and all involved couldn't be more excited to watch it come together," Mills said.


Construction is about 80 percent complete with completion expected in Q4 and the first products being produced in the 4th quarter.